Disciples of Otis,
Brother Oliver here.
I’m happy to say that Brother Henry, Sir Thomas, and I all made it through Howloween without being touched by, as Brother Henry described them, any “sticky-fingered nightmares”. We did have a few close calls though, so we’ve all been kind of laying low for the past week to make sure there weren’t any sticky stragglers hanging around waiting for us to make an appearance.
Anyway, after honoring Leader Otis on the anniversary of His passing a little over a week ago, I started to really miss the photo sessions that I used to have with Him. I mean, He just knew how to work it for the camera like no one else I have ever met. I told Brother Henry how I was feeling and he said, “Well, Brother Oliver, I know I’m not as good at modeling as Leader Otis, but I’d be willing to work with you to see if we can recapture some of the magic you felt while photographing Him. Do you want to try?” I have to admit, I was pretty excited by Brother Henry’s suggestion. I said, “Yes! Let’s do it! Brother Henry, do you think you could recreate Leader Otis’s famous, mesmerizing gaze?” Brother Henry said, “I can sure try! But first, here’s a little something for the lady cats out there.” Brother Henry then made a look that I guess he thought would appeal to our feline sisters.
I said, “All right Brother Henry… that’s a good look, but let’s try to lean more towards the inspirational…” Brother Henry said, “You mean like this?” And then sat up very straight and gazed slightly upward. I’m not sure how inspirational it really was, but it did remind me how big Brother Henry really is. They don’t call him 17-pounds of tabby fury for nothing.
I told Brother Henry that he was on the right track, but that I needed to try a tighter angle to really see the inspiration in his eyes. As I adjusted my camera, Brother Henry spontaneously said, “Wait, war if I kind of look over one shoulder like this!” He then turned his head slightly and gave the photo a whole different feel! I’m not going to lie to you, I kind of felt inspired!
While it wasn’t the same as working with The Leader, I was really starting to enjoy the collaboration with Brother Henry. I felt like he was really giving it his all and bringing his own ideas to the table. I decided it was time to try to recreate the famous Leader Otis gaze. I said, “OK, Brother Henry, now I’m going to need you to really concentrate. I need all of your focus and all of your intensity. Really try to channel your “inner Leader” on this one. I… wait, what are you doing with your tongue?” Brother Henry’s tongue was sticking out and it kind of spoiled the feel of serious intensity that I was going for.
Brother Henry said, “Oh! Sorry about that. Sometimes when I concentrate really hard my tongue kind of sticks out on its own. I have no idea why.” I said, “No problem, Brother Henry, I appreciate the effort. Now that you know you’re doing it though, let’s refocus and try again, this time with more intensity!” Brother Henry pulled his tongue back in and then did his best to give me his best, serious gaze. It wasn’t bad, but it still wasn’t quite right.
After reviewing the photo for a minute I figured out what was missing. I said, “Brother Henry! I know what the problem is! Leader Otis always looked directly at the camera. That made it feel like He was looking directly at you… like He was peering into your soul! Try looking directly into the lens.” Brother Henry said, “The lens kind of makes me uncomfortable. It looks like a big eye staring at me… but OK, if you say that’s what I need to do, I will give it my best try.” I said, “But you looked directly into the lens when you did your pose for the lady cats!” And Brother Henry replied, “Yeah, but I was imagining I was looking into the eyes of the ladies instead of a camera lens!” I said, “Well, now just pretend you are looking into the eyes of whoever is viewing the photo, OK?” Brother Henry said, “OK” and then did as I asked.
The photo of Brother Henry was not quite the same as The Leader’s hypnotic gaze, but the image had a subtle power all its own. I realized in that moment that I should not have been trying to use Brother Henry to recreate the experience I had with Leader Otis. That experience is simply no longer available. But working with Brother Henry is a special experience in its own right, and one that I dare say is no less rewarding.
So was I successful at recapturing the magic of photographing Leader Otis? No. I was not. But I was successful in discovering a whole new kind of magic in photographing Brother Henry. For that, I will be forever grateful to him.
So Sayeth Brother Oliver